Legendary film editor Anne V Coates died in California on Tuesday at the age of 92. Her credits include Lawrence of Arabia, for which she won her only Oscar, The Elephant Man, Out of Sight, Erin Brockovich, Ragtime, Chaplin, In the Line of Fire, Becket, What About Bob? and Unfaithful.
In 2017, Coates was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Oscar.
Coates was in a long line of respected female editors in Hollywood, including Dede Allen, Thelma Schoonmaker, and Dorothy Spencer. Coates was born in Surrey in England on December 12, 1925. Among her early influences was such films as Lost Horizon, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. She worked as a hospital nurse and intended to become a director before cutting her teeth on religious short films.
“When I tried to get into the industry, there were only certain jobs open to women,” she told The Hollywood Reporter in an interview in 2015. “Things like hairdressing didn’t really interest me. I might have been interested in photography, but women couldn’t do that in those days. I found the most interesting job a woman could do, other than acting, was editing. I didn’t know much about editing when I went into it, but I learned to love it.”
Coates’s first editing credit was on Noel Langley’s The Pickwick Papers (1952). Her final credit, which she shared with two editors, was on 50 Shades of Grey (2016).
Lawrence of Arabia, David Lean’s 1962 biopic, contains one of the most famous cuts in film history. “In addition to its impressive balance of imposing desert landscapes and vivid human drama (culled from some 31 miles of footage), the nearly four-hour epic contains one of the most famous ‘match’ cuts in movie history, from a shot of Peter O’Toole blowing out a match to a majestic desert sunrise,” Variety noted in its tribute.
For David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980), Coates’s challenge was to “cut the film in such a way that you didn’t see the Elephant Man’s natural face until the nurse brought his food when in fact several scenes had been shot showing it, so I had to cut round these scenes”, she said in an interview with the channel TCM.
In Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998), Coates’s playful cutting created one of the most romantic scenes in American cinema – the encounter between federal marshal Karen Sisco (Jennifer Lopez) and career criminal Jack Foley (George Clooney) that has been building up throughout the film.
Coates was married to director Douglas Hickox until his death in 1988. She is survived by actor, writer and director Anthony Hickox; film editor Emma E Hickox, and director and editor James DR Hickox.